September 22, 2003

Chirac's NYT Interview Yeah I

Chirac's NYT Interview

Yeah I know this is a day late but I'm on the road. Anyway, the interview is pretty long but worth reading.

Funny to think, but the piece is actually Chirac's counterpoint to Gerard Schroder's somewhat conciliatory NYT oped from a few days back. It's actually an attempt at rapprochment with those jingoistic Anglo-Saxons--but a la Parisienne--meaning with some verbal epingles thrown in, the requisite haughtiness, an annoying didactic tone sprinkled about, and a good dollop of Gallic disingenuousness.

Why is it a rapprochment interview? Because ultimately he says he won't veto a new resolution unless the resolution is "provocative" (translation: as long as you don't really rub our noses in it, make us feel grossly irrelevant, or don't even attempt to negotiate what might get us to a yes vote).

He then provides somewhat of a roadmap re: what would get a yes vote-- "a precise deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, and second, a timetable for transferring responsibility, and a key role for the U.N."

A "key role" is suitably vague language where middle ground can be easily broached by the diplomats negotiating the resolution. The sovereignty deadline and reponsibility transfer timetable are tricker issues. That said, we could probably push the French on the symbolic sovereignty handover to 3-6 months hence with the transfer of the lion's share of responsibility to about 18 months (double the 6-9 month time frame Chirac mentioned, that's an initial negotiating position, and one he said would happen "little by little").

All this to say--I think we can get a yes--and that would be a pretty good outcome in terms of helping heal the ill feelings over all the spilt milk at Turtle Bay earlier this year. Still, if the French don't agree to more realistic sovereignty handover time frames--we will likely see an abstention. But they are telegraphing that before the negotiations get down and dirty--thus reducing their veto leverage mightily. So, especially viewed in that context, it's all pretty conciliatory fare that Chirac laid out in the interview. Put simply, and critical, the veto cloud has been lifted.

Other key take-aways: 1) no French troops in Iraq (at least in the short to mid-term, ie. he doesn't definitively take the possibility off the table but comes very close to doing so) but the French will likely be happy to help train an Iraqi police force (with some of the training perhaps taking place in Iraq), 2) a view of the world as moving towards multipolarity but with the U.S. and Europe acting with "solidarity for each other, vis ˆ vis the others, which have a different culture", and 3) Chirac stressing an effective Euro defense capability is in the offing so that Europe could act outside NATO when it deems it in its interest.

Eurodefense Force Issue

Related to #3 above, Chirac said as follows in the interview:

"We have seen this recently in Macedonia. Our American friends have told us that we should take responsibility for the Balkans from now on. We can do this, but how? With a flute? We have seen it in Africa; we need a system, a European defense policy." [my emphasis]

The Gaul's gall! First, it's worth noting that we bailed the Euros out of the Balkan imbroglio at Dayton. When in 1991, a Eurodiplomat enthused that the "hour of Europe" had arrived (ie., Europe would solve the Balkan mess), Bush 41 was happy to let the Europeans take the lead. Of course it didn't quite turn out that way, did it?

Second, who in Washington DC is leading the call to oppose the creation of a Eurodefense force? Not many people, as far as I know. In fact, the whole Bob Kagan thesis that had post-Kantian Euros keeping defense spending low and enjoying a U.S. paid security umbrella (in somewhat ingrate-like fashion) likely has some in the Beltway cheerleading increased European defense expenditures (as long as they don't get too robust, bien sur).

So why Chirac's sarcastic reference to the "flute"? By all means, get a Euro defense force up and running. And then use it to patrol "your" neighborhood--Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

But don't disingenuously argue that the U.S. is keeping Europe from assuming its perceived security obligations and/or ambitions. Its been more a story of European abdication than the U.S. restraining possible Euro military groupings.

The System is Broken, Dude

Note as well that the French still haven't dropped the de Villepinian (and hyper Cartesian) analysis of the "logic of occupation" (Chirac calls it the "system").

"On the contrary, IÕm simply giving my view of how things are. One, it is a complicated business, two it is a dangerous business, and is becoming more dangerous by the day. Three, we must try and get out of it. It is my conviction that the current system-- letÕs be clear, I mean a system of occupation-- will not allow us to find a solution to this situation. It will generate more and more reaction against this system, which will grow even more complicated, as you say, due to the difficulties that already exist among the Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis and so on. All of this is true, but I do not see any other way out. I only see the probablity of the situation getting worse." [my emphases]

This is all pretty bogus stuff. As Dan Drezner points out:

"In what way will the transfer of de jure sovereignty without de facto responsibility accelerate statebuilding in Iraq? Is sovereignty without responsibility merely an example of organized hypocrisy, or is there normative content to this concept?"


A Couple Final Thoughts

Isn't it sad that a French President even has to say something like this in an interview with America's leading newspaper?

"This is all the more necessary since we are watching with sorrow and distress the attacks that have been taking place, often against American soldiers. And frankly, it hurts us whenever. It hurts us to hear about the attacks against American soldiers or to see images on television; the attacks against others as well, of course, but particularly American soldiers. It hurts us."

I'm still left just a tad muddied as to whether Chirac chokes up more when a Ba'athist loyalist dies or an American G.I.--but let's take him on his word--why does this even need to be said? Ca va sans dire, non?

And don't look to the French to come up with major innovations to replace the near-dead roadmap:

"Q: And what can be done about the Israel-Palestinian crisis?

A: It fills me with sadness. But IÕm afraid I must go since I have a plane to catch É"

Posted by Gregory at September 22, 2003 02:44 PM

Amoxicillin information.

Posted by: Amoxicillin at October 4, 2004 10:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Info on Levaquin online.

Posted by: Levaquin at October 12, 2004 07:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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